What are the Different Types of OSHA Violations?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) violations fall into five main categories that range from non-serious to very serious. OSHA violations also address failures to respond to citations, and repetitive and purposeful non-compliance. Penalties for these violations can be as minor as a warning, but sometimes can result in a complete shutdown of a business or enterprise. OSHA generally performs routine inspections of workplace conditions to be sure that the jobs being done and the work environment both comply with safety requirements.

One of the most serious OSHA violations concerns willfully violating rules and regulations. In some cases, it can carry a fine of around $70,000 United States Dollars (USD). In order to cite a workplace for willful violation, OSHA must be able to prove that the employer had knowledge that a dangerous condition existed in his or her workplace, yet did nothing to correct it. Businesses that engage in this type of behavior may do so out of a desire to cut costs, or they could simply be unable to afford the necessary changes.

Another citation is reserved for repeat offenders, and is generally considered one of the more severe OSHA violations. In this case, in order to penalize a business or individual employer, OSHA must show that prior citations regarding the same violations have been ignored. As in the case of willful violation, this citation can cost businesses around $70,000 USD in fines and penalties for each citation listed.


In their initial inspections, OSHA generally cites its violations as either serious or non-serious. More serious OSHA violations are where a dangerous or life-threatening situation is discovered, and non-serious violations usually apply to conditions that could be considered hazardous, but are likely not life-threatening. Fines associated with these violations can range from a few thousand to several thousand dollars. The employer is generally given an adequate amount of time to correct the cited hazards, and if he fails to do so, he could be found in violation of “failure to abate.” This OSHA violation can eventually result in a shutdown of the workplace.

OSHA was created in 1970 to address and oversee environmental safety in workplaces inside the United States. At the time, environmental pollution and worker safety had not been seriously addressed on a federal level. Before OSHA, most states had their own individual guidelines and laws that regulated occupational safety. It was believed by the federal government that many state laws did not go far enough in protecting workers or the environment. Since OSHA’s creation, studies have generally shown a steady decline in incidents of job-related injuries and environmental pollution.


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